In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne shows some misogyny as he writes about the evilness of Hester Prynne and how she is not worthy of respect. The consequences that Hester faced throughout The Scarlet Letter were given to her by men and because of actions that men directed her towards. This type of treatment and aggression towards women is demonstrated throughout The Scarlet Letter. The first example of misogyny that The Scarlet Letter provides is the treatment of Hester Prynne by The Puritans.
The treatment towards Hester was very unfair, because The Puritans treated her as an object rather than a person. The men in The Scarlet Letter would not allow themselves to make eye contact with or acknowledge Hester at all. There are many instances where this action could have been taken, but the one that sticks out the most is when The Magistrate comes to visit Hester at her house after she gives birth to her daughter Pearl. The Magistrate says that no man should be able to see what is under his robes, because it can easily cause temptation among other men .
This act demonstrates how much The Puritans do not want to give Hester the slightest bit of recognition. The action taken by The Magistrate is very misogynistic because The Puritans refuse to acknowledge Hester, which makes her feel inferior and unworthy of respect. The way that The Puritans treat Hester takes away all of her power and causes her to become powerless against the men in her life that are causing all of these problems for her.
The relationships between Arthur Dimmesdale and Chillingworth demonstrate how men can be misogynistic when they are in bad relationships with women or when they are married to them. The relationship between Chillingworth and Dimmesdale made it possible for them to act according to their true feelings towards each other (which were very negative and misogynistic). The mutual feelings between Chillingworth and Dimmesdale show the reader how The Puritans view relationships with people that are not The Puritans.
The negative feelings that The Puritans have towards those who are different than their religion cause them to see others as objects rather than people, which dehumanizes other groups of people such as women. The final example of misogyny in The Scarlet Letter is seen through Pearl’s actions and towards her mother Hester Prynne. The way that Pearl acts around her mother shows how children can also be very misogynistic. During the time period where The Scarlet Letter takes place, having a child out of wedlock meant that one was inferior and not worthy of respect.
The way that society treated Hester Prynne is the same way that Pearl treats her mother. The example of misogyny in The Scarlet Letter that Pearl provides shows how children can also be misogynistic towards women, because they learn behaviors from their parents and continue them into adulthood. The behavior that Pearl demonstrates towards her own mother shows how The Puritans do not respect anyone, especially those who are different than The Puritans.
The way that Hester gave birth to a child out of wedlock made it so she was looked down upon by The Puritan community, which meant she couldn’t get a job or live comfortably without being criticized. This treatment from The Puritans gives readers an understanding as to why Hester felt like she had to lie about who the father of her daughter was and why The Scarlet Letter is considered a story of adultery. The way that The Puritans treated Hester Prynne made it so she became an outcast in The Scarlet Letter, which caused her to be lonely and unable to trust people because The Puritans were always watching her.
This treatment from The Puritans triggers the events that unfold throughout The Scarlet Letter, such as when Pearl condemns Arthur Dimmesdale for lying about who he really is and The Magistrate attempts to get revenge on Dimmesdale by exposing his affair with Hester Prynne. The ways in which The Puritans treat women in The Scarlet Letter demonstrates how men can also be misogynistic towards women and show their true feelings through actions rather than words.
Men acting according to their true feelings rather than hiding them displays The Puritans as a group of people who do not respect anyone, especially those who are different from The Puritans. The treatment of women in The Scarlet Letter is the same way that The Magistrate treats Hester Prynne and how Pearl acts towards her mother. The misogynistic ways of The Puritans shown through The Scarlet Letter proved that they hated women because The Puritan community only accepted men and rejected all women.
When Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter, he chose to portray the main female protagonist, Hester Prynne, as someone who has committed adultery. The fact that she has committed this crime is not what makes her a hussy in the eyes of the community; rather it is her refusal to name her child’s father that solidifies her status as an outcast among them. The people judge Hester based on their very strict views on morality and gender roles. These misogynistic viewpoints are evident throughout The Scarlet Letter due to how they affect not only Hester but other women in the novel as well.
The best example of misogyny in The Scarlet Letter can be found through examining Arthur Dimmesdale’s behavior towards women throughout his interactions with Hester. The first example of his misogynistic behavior is when he asks Hester to meet him in the forest, but after she agrees he does not show up to their meeting. The men in a town know that Dimmesdale has an infatuation with this “scarlet woman”, so they harass Dimmesdale when they realize that he did not show up because of her influence.
The way Arthur treats Hester at this moment shows how he sees women as evil temptresses who can lead decent men into sin by merely existing (Hawthorne 544-545). The next instance where Nathaniel Hawthorne demonstrates misogyny through Dimmesdale’s character comes later in the story in his interaction with Chillingworth and Governor Bellingham. The two men imprison Dimmesdale and force him to tell them the truth about his relationship with Hester. The men want to know if Arthur is really the father of Pearl, but they choose to torture him rather than ask their questions civilly (Hawthorne 557).
The final example of misogyny in The Scarlet Letter comes near the end when all three characters confront each other about their secrets. The two men believe that Alice has been having an affair with Arthur, so Chillingworth kills her and accuses Dimmesdale of murdering her. In reality, Chillingworth murders Alice because she knows too much about his own past sins (Hawthorne 585-586). These examples from The Scarlet Letter show how Nathaniel Hawthorne uses misogyny as a literary device to demonstrate how the Puritans used their strict views on gender roles to punish women who broke them.
The incident in The Scarlet Letter takes place in New England, which held town-based governments during the time when Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter. The actions of these male characters are meant to reflect what society believed about women and why they were afraid of feminine influences (Straub 2). The men treat Hester like a criminal because she breaks their prescribed gender roles by engaging in sexual activity out of wedlock. The fact that she refuses to name her child’s father enrages the people even more due to how it leaves her without any support among them (Hayes 136).